Panasonic debuts Firefox-powered smart TVs

The TV sets running on Firefox's mobile operating system are available now in Europe and will go on sale worldwide "in the coming months."

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

A look at the basic menu on Panasonic's Viera Smart TV, which is powered by Firefox OS. Mozilla

Mozilla, the organization best known for its Firefox browser, is bringing its other creation -- Firefox OS -- to a big-screen set near you.

The first line of Panasonic Viera Smart TVs, which run on Firefox's operating system for smartphones and tablet computers, have gone on the market in Europe, Mozilla announced in a blog post on Thursday. A handful of Panasonic sets are included in the first run, including the CR850, CR730, and CX800, among others. Mozilla says the Firefox OS-powered televisions will be available elsewhere around the world "in the coming months."

By jumping into the television market, Mozilla is now competing against a range of operating systems running on both HDTVs and set-top boxes. Samsung, for instance, runs its smart TV technology on its Tizen platform. LG has WebOS built into its televisions. Google, Roku, and Ubuntu are also delivering television software technology. Meanwhile, a host of companies, including Apple, Amazon, and TiVo, all offer set-top boxes that deliver apps, similar to Firefox OS.

Firefox OS was launched in April 2013 as an alternative to Android and iOS on lower-end smartphones in emerging markets. The platform is a Linux-based operating system and Mozilla has touted its support for open Web platforms, including HTML5 applications, JavaScript, and others. The operating system is designed to entirely take advantage of Web technologies. Mozilla argues that rather than develop for closed-off systems, like iOS or Android, developers should be able to design apps with Web standards and readily port them to any other platform.

Mozilla's core vision is to provide a credible alternative to the dominant mobile operating system forces, Android and iOS, and break down some of the barriers that cause users to stick with their mobile OS of choice, rather than try something else.

The issue for Mozilla, however, has been getting Firefox OS off the ground. In March, Annette Zimmermann, research director for Gartner's consumer markets and technology group, told CNET that Firefox OS hasn't been a success.

"In a 1.2 billion smartphone unit market in 2014, they only shipped a bit over 2 million units," she said, and only a limited number of handset makers -- namely ZTE, Huawei, and TCL's Alcatel brand -- have decided to pursue Firefox OS devices. Still, Mozilla has said that it can grow despite the headwind. The company's chief technology officer Andreas Gal said in March that Firefox OS phones were available across 30 countries and more products and developers are coming online each month. Mozilla hopes to make a push for higher-end devices in addition to the lower-end of the market where it's lived.

Expanding to televisions is another important component in Mozilla's strategy of proving it has the chops to compete in what is a crowded operating system space. At Mobile World Congress in March, Mozilla showed off Firefox OS on a Panasonic television, saying that the television-based operating system would deliver all of the features built into the standard Firefox OS that customers had come to expect.

Mozilla has come through on that promise. The Panasonic televisions run on a slightly modified Firefox OS designed for big screens that comes with all of the standard features, including access to the Firefox apps marketplace. The platform also includes the Firefox browser.

Neither Panasonic nor Mozilla immediately responded to a request for comment.